A dress rehearsal of the coming battle between the new AT&T and Verizon Communications got underway Tuesday as AT&T's Cingular Wireless unveiled a mobile TV service and Verizon Wireless launched TiVo Mobile for remote recording of TV shows.
The Cingular Video service, based on RealNetworks' Helix Online platform, is being launched in 16 cities across the U.S. The service offers clips from several television shows ranging from the Disney Channel and the Cartoon Network, to HBO's The Sopranos and Sex and the City.
Later this month, Cingular plans to exclusively offer NCAA men's basketball video highlights over the streaming video solution.
"Cingular Video provides consumers a simple and easier way to access the latest news, sports, entertainment and weather clips whenever they want," said Sam Hill, vice president of the firm's Mobile Browse and Developer Program, in a statement. Helix OnlineTV provides encoding, indexing, managing and delivery of content in different formats.
Priced at $19.99 for Cingular's Media Net Unlimited data package, the HBO offerings require additional subscription fees. The streaming video launch was made in the wake of AT&T's announcement that it was acquiring BellSouth. The two firms had jointly owned Cingular.
Verizon Wireless has been offering its Vcast streaming video of TV clips for $15 a month. The new TiVo service -- priced at under $5 a month -- enables Verizon Wireless users with TiVo recorders at their homes or offices to remotely program the devices to capture TV shows.
Most of Verizon Communications' and AT&T's landlines are still in their respective monopoly regions, but their cell phone services are nationwide and that is where their initial major competitions are likely to be carried out.
Each brings strengths and weaknesses to the wireless battlefield. Cingular will be wholly-owned by AT&T, giving the firm latitude to move quickly and aggressively, while Verizon Wireless has a hydra-headed ownership with Vodafone Group owning 45 percent of the company, possibly impeding quick decisions and deployment in the field.
Verizon's network is more robust, built around Qualcomm's EV-DO technology, and has a strong head start in data offerings. Cingular is built on the European-developed GSM standard, which is moving to catch up.
On Tuesday, for instance, Nokia announced at the CeBIT show in Germany that its HSDPA software upgrade boasts speed of 1-2 Mbps and it eventually plans to support up to 14.4 Mbps. Those speeds are expected to one day be available in the U.S. for Cingular and T-Mobile users. The latter firm also uses the GSM architecture.
Verizon has indicated it favors taking over Vodafone's interest in Verizon Wireless -- a move that would facilitate its moves in the marketplace.
The third largest U.S. cell phone service provider -- Sprint/Nextel -- also offers EV-DO technology, which it is rolling out now.